Business

Congratulations, Boston University, you’re now a patent troll

Image Credit: wallyg

Boston University is seeking a ban on all iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air sales based on a patent dating back 22 years  that runs out in another two.

Welcome to the ranks of blood-sucking scumbag patent trolls, Boston University. You’re in good company — Nathan Myrvold is the president of the club.

Ironically, it was Boston University professors James Bessen and Michael J. Meurer who completed a study last year that concluded that patent trolls — organizations that develop or acquire patentable technologies but don’t produce any products — cost the United States a cool $29 billion a year.

Oh, that’s before various indirect costs such as “diversion of resources, delays in new products, and loss of market share,” the Boston University profs said at the time, adding that “we find little evidence that NPEs [nonproducing entities, aka patent trolls] promote invention overall.”

I wonder what they think of their university now.

The patent in question is a method for “highly insulating monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films,” and Boston University says that iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Air products include an infringing thin film semiconductor device. It’s not clear if that’s Apple’s A6 processor, or some other chip — almost certainly built by Samsung or another partner — but in the antique language of patents, this inclusion causes Boston University “substantial and irreparable damage.”

Which, apparently, they just learned of yesterday.

The patent was filed in 1995, but its priority date extends back to March 18, 1991. I think it’s safe to say that the iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Air were not even glimmers in a still youngish Steve Jobs’ eye at that point. The patent was granted in 1997.

The most important date, however, would appear to be 2015. That’s when it will run its 20-year course, expire, and become worthless.

In the complaint, Boston University says it wants Apple to make a full “accounting of all gains, profits andadvantages derived by Defendant’s infringement,” and that it wants the court to ban Apple from “making, having made, selling, offering for sale, distributing and/or using products that infringe the ’738 patent.”

I would say good luck, Boston, but the university is attempting to have the case argued in the District of Massachusetts, which would probably be a point in its favor.

Hat tip: GigaOM


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